3 Photography Post-Processing Tips

3 photography post processing tips - WONDERMENTARY

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In photography, taking the picture is only half the battle. The other half comes from post-processing, or editing and improving pictures on a program after they were taken. Below, I will share 3 pointers that will hopefully improve your post-processing procedure!

1. Shoot in RAW

Before you even begin to take pictures or think about post-processing, change your camera settings so that you’re shooting in RAW. This format, versus JPG, allows your camera to retain a lot more information that will come in handy during post-processing. For example, you can adjust exposure, fine-tune color balance, and save shadows and highlights, among many others.

camera raw tutorial
Before: the dark shadows obscure details in the ceiling.
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
After: increased exposure, lightened shadows, and decreased highlights bring out more details in the photo.

Moral of the story: shoot in RAW. Even though it takes up more memory than JPGs, you’ll thank yourself later when you forgot to increase the ISO in a dark building and came out with a black picture (can’t tell you how often this has happened to me). If you shoot in .RAW, the photo is still salvageable!

2. Edit in Adobe Lightroom

Unfortunately, only certain programs can read and edit .RAW files. So if you shoot in .RAW, a simple paint program will not be able to read and import those pictures. However, Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are the two most common photo editing programs among professionals. I personally adore Lightroom 5, because it is super simple to use yet has a lot of powerful features. If you don’t have it yet, you can purchase Lightroom from Adobe’s website! Alternatively, you can get is as part of Adobe’s creative suite along with Photoshop, Illustrator, and more.

Adobe Lightroom 5 workspace

If you look on the right side of the workspace, you’ll see sliders that can toggle Temp, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, etc. The best part is, these are all in workflow order. So if you start with the Temperature adjuster and work your way down with each toggle, the picture will look increasingly better. Once you’re done, all you have to do is save and export.

It’s too expensive/what if I don’t have Lightroom?

A quick Google search for Lightroom alternatives should do it. For all you lazy bums out there, I already did it for you: CLICK. Report back if you find one that works/you really like!

3. Read the histogram

camera photography histogram
This is a histogram. (Source)

What, graphs?! But I don’t do math!

Don’t worry. You don’t need to find intercepts or calculate slopes. All you need to know is:

  • You want the shape of your histogram to resemble a mountain (like shown above)
  • You want the mountain’s “peak” to be in the middle, i.e. midtones range

So where is this histogram?

First, you should be able to see a histogram for each picture on your camera’s preview screen. (Learn how to adjust your camera settings!) This is super helpful for when I am out taking pictures but cannot tell whether my picture is properly exposed from looking at the tiny LCD screen. Thus, I can adjust accordingly on the spot.

Second, if you use Lightroom as I recommended above, the histogram will be on the top right corner when you’re in “Develop” mode. Therefore, when you’re toggling those sliders and wondering if you’re going overboard, read the histogram to see if your guess is correct.

dark histogram
The peaks in the histogram are too far to the left, in the shadows region. This means the picture is too dark with a lot of shadows.
light histogram
The peaks in the histogram are too far to the right, in the highlights region. This means the picture is too light with a lot of highlights.

A useful tip: click on the little triangles in the top corners of the histogram to toggle shadow and highlight “clippings.” Areas that are too dark will show up blue and areas that are too light will show up red. You can somewhat see these color areas in the two photos above.

Adjust that baby until it’s juuust right.

Eiffel Tower at Night Paris
I love it when it sparkles at night! <3

So those are my top three basic post-processing tips! Was this article helpful? I’d love to hear feedback and questions, so leave them below in the comments!

Once again, if you don’t have Adobe Lightroom, I highly recommend it and you can get it here!

What other topics and questions would you like to be addressed?

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Read more photography tips & tutorials in my new tips and tutorials section.

  • Editing my pictures is one of the things that I really need to start doing! These are some great tips to keep in mind.

  • Thanks so much for sharing these really great tips 🙂

  • Great tips! I use PhotoDirector 6 and absolutely LOVE IT!!!

  • Good tips. I need to get to know my camera better!!

  • I have never used Lightroom before. Very helpful post, thank you. I had no idea RAW has great advantages.

  • oohh this is handy. thank you for sharing! i always forget to shoot in raw /sighs

    xx http://tanaditya.co.vu

  • Kim

    Awesome guide for the histogram! I like how you showed an example for when the histogram was all over on the left or the right!

    • Thanks! I’m glad it was understandable. I’d be happy to answer any other questions that crop up!

  • So many good points! I have a super basic canon rebel, and I don’t think it shoots in RAW (correct me if I’m wrong?!), but I totally wish it did because the comparison you showed here is incredible!

    • Hey Kathryn, so glad it helped! Try looking into your camera’s settings to change the format to .RAW instead of .JPG.

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  • kerri

    thank you very useful

  • Marg Bourne

    Great reminder for those that shoot with a DSLR… and with RAW capabilities coming to smartphones, this is even more important to do! Especially if you are travelling, taking photos and sharing via social media channels or blogging. Great post!